What is “flex work” - and why is there so much talk about it?
Flexible work is any kind of work arrangement that differs from the traditional workweek model of five consecutive eight-hour workdays performed at the organization’s facilities with fixed start and end times each workday.
But flex work can be a lot more than just flexible working hours at the office. It also includes flexibility in the choice of location: combining the possibility to work both from the office and at satellite offices and coworking spaces more conveniently located closer to home or customers, made possible thanks to modern technologies. The benefits of this include reduced travel time and commuting costs; decreased energy consumption, pollution and traffic jams; and, finally, lowered stress levels from being able to balance work and personal life.
However, let me say right off the bat: working permanently 9 to 5 alone from home, is not flex work in my book. There should ideally be a balance between freedom to work anytime-anywhere, and the so-called “water cooler effect” - the opportunity to casually connect and collaborate with your colleagues around the office. Being stationary at home is not flexibility, but just another version of fixed working arrangements.
Boost morale, agility and productivity
At best, flex work is a workplace strategy that can boost morale, agility and productivity. Many studies show that there is correlation between flexible work arrangements, happiness and productivity. For example, a study by the University of Warwick reports that happiness led to a 12 percent increase in productivity, while dissatisfied workers were 10 percent less productive. Likewise, a study conducted by Rapal Oy found a clear connection between the ability to work flexibly and workplace satisfaction and well-being.
Whatever the variations in arrangements may be, one thing should remain clear: the employer’s objective is to focus on overall business goals rather than on micro-managing how people do their work, supervising headcounts or creating tailored work accommodations for individuals. In a work culture based on targets and trust, the aim is to enable better work-life balance, productivity and well-being.
While flex work sounds like the ticket to organizational bliss, it is important to understand and communicate that flexibility is not
- A universal worker’s right, entitlement or award
- A secret perk or deal for the selected few
- Something that suits all job profiles or competencies
- A matter of HR-policy, disconnected from daily management or company culture
- A space reduction program aiming to save real estate costs by having people work from home.